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VTA May Need Power of Eminent Domain for Downtown San Jose BART Project

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- Officials with the Valley Transit Authority say they may need to use the power of eminent domain to take over some parcels of land to build the BART to downtown San Jose project.

Under the plan, the owners of the land would have to be fairly compensated. But some of the affected business owners argue the process is not fair.

"The deadline that they've given us is by December of this year, December 2022, which we think is unreasonable. We are currently in the process of trying to find land, but it's been a real challenge," said Vice President of Monarch Truck Center Tony Guetersloh.

The truck center has been selling, renting and repairing trucks for San Jose
industry on the same site for the last 30 years, but its owners are not sure how much longer they'll be here.

"There's this big pending doom hanging over us. We think about it every night. We have a hard time sleeping," said Guetersloh. "What's the future of our company going to be? Are we going to be around a year from now?"

Officials with the Valley Transportation Authority say the five-acre site is needed for the BART extension into downtown San Jose.

The "Little Portugal" station was mapped out for the area which will
eventually displace the truck center as well as other businesses near 30th and
Santa Clara Street.

The VTA is currently buying up 93 pieces of land along the Santa Clara Street corridor where BART trains will eventually run in tunnels to underground stations.

The truck center is one of the largest parcels, but others include small mom and pop businesses like a convenience store near 2nd Street.

"The BART Silicon Valley project is really all about bringing enhanced public benefit, to enhance mobility," said VTA spokesperson Bernice Alaniz.

The VTA says buying the land is a long process that begins with friendly negotiations that can move into eminent domain if the parties cannot reach an agreement on pricing.

It could end with a court deciding what's fair compensation for the land.

"The fact that we're at the point of acquiring property is really a demonstration that the VTA and the BART Silicon Valley team are working diligently to bring this public benefit to the people as soon as possible," Alaniz said.

The truck center says it's been working with a VTA real estate team to find a new location, but so far, nothing comes close to this site which once housed the San Jose Steel Company just off the 101.

"There's not a lot of industrial land left in San Jose," Guetersloh said.

He says they'll keep looking, but time is ticking away.

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